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AOC, Tlaib Rebuke Republicans for “Grasping for Straws” to Censure Jamaal Bowman

Republicans have accused Bowman of trying to obstruct the passage of a bill that he voted for.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks at a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the U.S. Capitol building on November 13, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Progressive House lawmakers have condemned Republicans for voting on Thursday to censure Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), saying the move is little more than political theater after the recent scandals involving now-former Republican Rep. George Santos (New York).

On Thursday, the House voted 214 to 191 to censure Bowman, with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting “yes.” Republicans cited an incident in September when Bowman pulled the fire alarm in the U.S. Capitol office building, separate from the Capitol building, while the House was scrambling to pass a bill to narrowly avoid a government shutdown.

Bowman, who paid a fine for the incident, has said that it was a mistake — he was trying to exit doors that were normally open, and pulled the alarm thinking it would open the doors in his rush to get to the Capitol to cast his vote, he explained in an apology. His insistence that he wasn’t trying to obstruct the bill checks out; Bowman voted with nearly all of his fellow Democrats to pass the bill when the vote eventually resumed, having hardly been affected by the fire alarm at all.

In a debate on the House floor earlier this week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said that the GOP was trying to paint over being “embarrassed” by Santos, who was expelled from Congress last Friday after House Ethics Committee investigators found that he “blatantly stole” from his campaign coffers. She said that Republicans were simply “grasping for straws” to find a progressive lawmaker to scapegoat after that debacle.

“Let me tell you what’s actually going on. New York Republicans are so embarrassed that they propped up George Santos, got him elected to office, and then had to turn around and vote to expel him, that they want to distract the entire world from their massive embarrassment,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So they’ve decided to target one of the first Black men to ever represent Westchester County in the United States Congress for censure.”

“They’re wasting our time, they’re wasting our country’s time,” she said. “These arguments that are being made here — what’s next? Jaywalking? Do you want to get us for jaywalking, for now crossing the street correctly?”

Other progressive lawmakers have also condemned the vote, noting that Republicans have a track record of targeting non-white progressive lawmakers with smear campaigns.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) pointed out the absurdity of Republicans comparing Bowman to the far right militants who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Last month, Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, was censured for her support of Palestinian liberation in the face of Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

“Now you’re trying to shift the focus by baselessly attacking Rep. Bowman to score cheap political points — comparing him to the white supremacists on January 6th who were smashing windows in the Capitol, y’all, and screaming ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ Give me a break,” she said. “This is yet another attempt to silence a person of color in this chamber.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) echoed Tlaib, saying, “This censure is just the latest in this chamber’s shameful history of telling Black and brown folks they don’t belong in Congress.”

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